Husband charged 14 years after estranged wife vanishes

BOWLING GREEN — Fourteen years after a southern Kentucky woman went missing, police have taken out a warrant charging her estranged husband with murder.

The Daily News reported that Leland Neal is charged in the death of Carol Neal, a Bowling Green social worker who was reported missing in 1998.

Although Carol Neal's body has never been found, hikers found part of her skull in 2003 in a densely wooded area of the Daniel Boone National Forest known as Parker's Mountain.

Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Cohron said Leland Neal was last seen in 2008 crossing the Mexican border, and there is no record of him returning.

"Once we realized he had fled to Mexico, some additional information that I can't comment on came forward," Cohron said. "When we looked at the arrest warrant affidavit ... looking at its entirety, my office felt that the investigation was at a stage where charges needed to be filed."

The arrest affidavit provides some details into the case.

According to the document, the couple separated in July 1998, and within the next month Carol Neal filed a domestic violence report against Leland Neal and filed for divorce.

They had a hearing scheduled on Nov. 12 to set a date for divorce proceedings.

The affidavit says friends of Carol Neal and a relative told police that she had been afraid of her husband, who had threatened to kill her.

"This case is an example of the culmination of tenacity in a number of detectives who have worked on this case, with Detective (Barry) Raley being the most recently assigned detective to this case," Bowling Green police Chief Doug Hawkins said. "We don't let the passage of time be a deterrent to our desire to bring those who have committed heinous crimes to justice."

The affidavit also cites a diary that Carol Neal kept.

"Carol Neal memorialized in a journal in her own handwriting several events leading up to her death that show her relationship with Leland B. Neal, Jr. was over and that the ensuing divorce and child custody issues were causing mounting stress and tension," the affidavit said.

"The totality of the circumstances finally brought us to this point," Cohron said. "We expect for the case to proceed to the Warren County grand jury shortly."